“Whose Ambition is the Driving Force of the Play—Macbeth’s, Lady Macbeth’s, or Both?
One could justifiably describe Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as catalysts for one another, particularly concerning ambition. For example, in Act I, Scene V, Lady Macbeth asserts that Macbeth is “too full o’ the milk of human kindness” to ascend to the throne (Act I, Scene V). This serves as a challenge to Macbeth’s cunning, his ruthlessness, and his masculinity. After she succeeds in chastising him for his perceived impotence, she successfully ignites Macbeth’s own aspirations.
Once Lady Macbeth successfully galvanizes her husband into action, she instructs him that he simply needs to feign innocence, and leave the Machiavellian schemes to her (Act I, Scene V). From these interactions, we begin to see the relationship dynamic unfold. Lady Macbeth clearly stands out as the dominant partner. Indeed, the entire plot revolves around her guilefulness and the ways in which it influences Macbeth. This serves as evidence that were it not for her challenging his character, the plot would have changed drastically.
Not only does Lady Macbeth concoct the regicidal plot, but she also continuously puts it into motion, even when doubts begin to bedevil her husband. Each time he hesitates, she berates him mercilessly, until he once again engages with her in planning the murder. We see this in Act I Scene VII, when Lady Macbeth bluntly asks if Macbeth’s monarchial ambitions are merely a dream, brought on by drunkenness. She chidingly inquires, “Was the hope drunk wherein you dress’d yourself?” Again, we see Lady Macbeth’s recurring strategy of appealing to her husband’s sense of honor, in order to accomplish her nefarious ends. Ultimately, she brings them both to ruin, and their regal ambitions come to naught.
Shakespeare, W., & Bevington, D. (2013). The Complete Works of Shakespeare(Seventh ed., p. 2016). London: Longman.
Crystal, D., & Crystal, B. (2002). Shakespeare’s words: A glossary and language companion (p. 676). New York, New York: Puffin Books.”
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